News » World

World Reacts to Gabrielle Giffords Shooting

Foreign press views Arizona shooting as product of deep divisions and heated rhetoric.


Global reaction to the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords focused primarily on the deep divisions inside the United States and the heated rhetoric that dominates its political discussions.

Many commenters in the foreign press around the world said they were little surprised given America's lax gun laws and recent history of mass shootings. Still other media outlets ignored the American tragedy entirely.

GlobalPost correspondents have been closely following the story from Europe, to Africa, India and beyond. Here's a wrap of how the shooting is being deciphered and how it might affect America's reputation abroad:

View from Europe

America is not a terribly foreign country to most people in Britain. Response to the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords mirrored that of the American public: shock, but not surprise. There has been no official response from British political leaders but press comment on the tragedy broke down along the same party lines.

The Daily Telegraph, a right-wing broadsheet newspaper popularly called The Daily Torygraph, was one of the first papers to weigh in. The Telegraph has long played a role in right-wing American politics and was an active participant in keeping some of the scandals surrounding the Clinton administration, like Whitewater, alive.

A blog post from its Washington Bureau Chief, Toby Harnden, went up on Sunday. Harnden took American liberal blogs to task for their haste in blaming the vitriolic language of right-wing politicians and commentators for the Tucson shootings. He pointed out that Jared Loughner doesn't seem to be a Tea party member.

"This is highly inconvenient for certain people on the Left so they ignore it. They would much prefer the shooter to have been a white male in his 50s," Harnden wrote.

A Telegraph editorial today linked the weekend shooting of Giffords with last week's assassination of Salman Taseer in Pakistan, noting that "occasionally, politicians risk their lives."

The Guardian has a substantial American readership among its 35 million plus monthly unique visitors. It's American-based columnist, Gary Younge, noted today that, "America is more polarized under Obama than it has been in four decades: the week he was elected gun sales leapt 50 percent year on year."

He added, "Where the right is concerned the marginal and the mainstream have rapidly become blurred."

The Times editorial called for U.S. politicians to use more "generous language." The paper is owned by Rupert Murdoch, whose Fox News is not known for the comity of expression used by its reporter/commentators.

The ultra-right tabloid Daily Mail found an angle for its celebrity-obsessed readers: "An American congresswoman who was shot in the head at point blank range in an apparent assassination attempt is a cousin of actress Gwyneth Paltrow, it was revealed today."

Probably the most interesting piece of analysis came, ironically, from the Telegraph's man in Washington during the Clinton years, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, who noted that American economic recovery has stalled despite Wall Street's return to boom.

He writes, "Ben Bernanke’s 'trickle down’ strategy risks corroding America’s ethic of solidarity long before it does much to help America’s poor ... . It is no surprise that America’s armed dissident movement has resurfaced."

In other parts of Europe, the story has received slightly less attention. The French press is consumed by the murder of two Frenchmen murdered in Niger by an African subsidiary of Al Qaeda. The German press has major flooding along the Rhine to contend with.

But the lack of prominence given to the story could be down to this: For many in Europe, violence of the sort that occurred in Tucson on Saturday is almost expected in America.

View from Asia

“American shocker!” screamed Thailand’s largest newspaper, Thai Rath, in its report on the Arizona attacks. Other Bangkok newspapers detailed the gunman’s obsession with currency and touched on his mental problems. But by and large, Asia’s pundits did not draw any deep insights about America from the shooting spree.

The past few years have proven that killing sprees are hardly an American phenomenon — even in nations with extremely restrictive gun laws.

Knives, hammers and hatchets were weapons of choice for attackers in the bizarre rash of school attacks in 2010, in which five different unrelated men killed primary school students between March and August.

In Japan, where handguns are forbidden and associations with “aggressive” political groups disqualifies any gun ownership, a disturbed man’s 2008 stabbing rampage left officials wondering what more they could do to prevent killing sprees.

The Arizona shooter’s politically tinged (but largely nonsensical) Internet ramblings have led U.S. analysts to reflect on America’s long history of politically motivated killings. But few nations can match the Philippines for political danger. Since 2001, the human rights group Karapatan has counted 1,200 victims of extra-judicial murder.

This figure includes a number of office holders and government employees, including the 2009 massacre of a deputy mayor and his entourage that left 57 dead. Among the gunmen: a rival gubernatorial candidate who flagrantly showed up to personally oversee the killing.

View from Africa

In South Africa, while the referendum in southern Sudan remained the biggest international story, news of the shooting prompted self-reflection in a country that has one of the highest murder rates in the world, sparking online debates about gun control and violence in society.

“The killer was described as a deranged individual. The American people are up in arms and express their disgust for these killings. Sadly, in South Africa it has become a daily occurrence and lesser and lesser is said. We have a deranged nation,” wrote one commenter on News24, a major South African news website.

A Johannesburg Times poll asked: “Does the Arizona shooting show that we need to tone down the violence in our political speech?” Only a few hours after the poll had been posted, 85 percent of the 200 people who had voted had answered “yes” to the question.

South Africa’s Sunday Independent newspaper had no mention of the shooting but instead carried a front-page story about a homegrown political tragedy. The paper reported arrests in the murder of a politician in Mpumalanga province, district chief whip Johan Ndlovu, whose body was found dumped in bushes last week in what is said to have been an assassination. It was only the latest in a string of suspicious politician deaths in Mpumalanga.

Other South African media headlines focused on the shock of the attack for Americans.

“Shooting spree shakes divided U.S.,” said a headline in the Johannesburg Star’s print edition.

“US shocked by shooting,” said News24.

View from India

The Indian government did not issue a statement about the shooting of U.S. Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, and unlike recent university shooting sprees and several murders of Indian students, the event did not generate much media interest.

The shooting made the front page of only one of India's major English newspapers on Monday. Few Indian news outlets have correspondents based in America, and most print publications relied on copy from the New York Times or Washington Post for their coverage of the event.

The primary reason might be that despite India's interest in immigration issues, neither ordinary citizens nor commentators have seen a connection between the virulent battle over border-crossers in the American Southwest and the outsourcing sector's concern over changes to U.S. visa policy for skilled workers.

Meanwhile, dramatic domestic and regional events — such as politically motivated killings in West Bengal, where at least eight people have been slain in pre-poll skirmishes between party workers, and the assassination of Pakistani governor Salman Taseer — overshadowed the U.S. tragedy.

Papers that went beyond the basic reporting of the event took the same line favored by the foreign press, generally, linking the violence to the increasingly heated rhetoric of U.S. talking-head politics.